Two games from oblivion

I’m not sure when I started following the Tranmere Rovers. I recall taking over the club as manager in my FIFA 10 career mode, trying to challenge my managerial capabilities as much as possible. The enticing prospect of taking Tranmere from League One, or the third division, to the pinnacle of world football was so appealing that I must have spent months on my PlayStation getting them there.

Whilst climbing the top three tiers of English football, investing time and effort in serving the interests of my imaginary fans, I became attached to the Rovers. Without going back to my old PS2 and dusting off the FIFA 10 disc, I can name from my original squad the big Jamaican centre-half Ian Goodison, trusty central midfielder Joss Labadie, local young star James Wallace, winger Andy Robinson and Welsh ‘keeper Owain “Fwiz” fön Williams, just to name a few. These names, who would mean nothing to a ridiculously large portion of the football-supporting population, were important parts of what was probably one of my most significant achievements in 2009. My knowledge of the full squad and impressions of the team at that stage was due to FIFA. I guided us to promotion to the Premier League via winning League One and the Championship in consecutive seasons, eventually claiming the treble in about the 2016 season.

If someone asks me who I support, I say Chelsea. But to have a second team, from The Football League, to genuinely support – i.e. be affected in some way by the team’s fortunes – is fantastic. Suddenly you’re as interested in Carlisle United v Yeovil Town as you are in Arsenal v Man City, because they’re both top-of-the-table clashes in the league your team is in. And that kind of unlikely intrigue only added to my passion for the Rovers. However my passion has been limited by the distance between myself and Prenton Park, both physically and in terms of being able to view or listen to games. The midnight or 2am fixtures aren’t worth listening to on the online radio coverage, so my excitement or disappointment comes when I see the goal notifications on my phone the next morning.

You don’t have to be a football historian to know that Tranmere haven’t and never will reach the heights I lead them to on each new version of FIFA. The Rovers’ high point during my time supporting them was the 2012-13 season. From memory, we were top of League One in early December and certainly in the top couple at Christmas. Manager Ronnie Moore, in his fourth stint in any capacity at the club, won the season’s first two Manager of the Month Awards, while Jake Cassidy and Andy Robinson took out the corresponding Player of the Month Awards. There’s nothing like potential success for the supporter of a low-standing club, so I bought the home shirt online. The board of such a club also proved to be liable to get caught up in the hype; ours offered Moore an extension to his contract. After losing just 2 of the first 24 games, we proceeded to lose 15 of the next 22 and finished 11th.

It’s been downhill from there. Since the start of 2013, our horrific record has been nothing short of staggering. The 46 League One matches in our disastrous 2013-14 campaign saw us amass 47 points, enough to get relegated to the fourth division for the first time since 1988.

Naturally, I expected us to rebound and make the playoffs, if not win the league, this season. For the last 25 years we’d spent most time in either the second or third division, so bouncing back up from the fourth division seemed as inevitable as falling down to division two, had we bounced up to the Premier League when given the chance in the early 90’s.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Tranmere currently sits 92nd out of the 92 professional teams in England, 2 points behind Hartlepool who are 90th, or 22nd in League Two. There’s two games left in the season, meaning we’re two weeks from football obscurity. The invisibility and uncertainty of being a semi-professional club is frightening. How do I know this? Read the 179 comments of this post on the Tranmere Rovers Football Club Facebook page and you’ll get a basic understanding of how devastating relegation would be. If you’ve read comments from throughout the season, and seasons passed, as I have, when the drop to League Two was the final straw for many, you’ll understand why the current circumstances are being described, by loyal, long-time supporters, as the final breaths before the club’s death.

The “job” ahead of the team to avoid perishing has been talked about for months by Manager (until last week) Micky Adams and Chairman Mark Palios. If not for the last month then certainly now, Palios should be referring to our battle as a humanitarian mission. The livelihood of the third professional football club in Liverpool is at stake. Even if we’re as relevant to the mainstream Liverpudlian football landscape as Gateshead are to Newcastle, it’s still a bloody great big deal to a lot of people.

The last two fights are against Plymouth (away) and Bury (home). The worst part is that both opponents still have everything to play for. Plymouth, who we lost 1-0 to at home in the reverse fixture, are seventh, occupying the final spot to compete in the playoffs for promotion. Bury have won five of their last six, beat us 2-0 last October, and are charging towards automatic promotion.

What chance are we of surviving?


In our last 90 games we’ve collected 86 points. We’ve won one of our last 13. In our last four, we haven’t scored.

I won’t stop following Tranmere, despite the inevitable negativity and difficulty of getting out of English football’s abyss. I’ll still revel in the odd occasion where a stranger stops me in my tracks to compliment/express their surprise at/despise the fact that a young lad in Melbourne is wearing a Tranmere shirt. I’ll still hope to one day visit Prenton Park and see the Rovers play, be it chalking up a win against Grimsby Town in the Conference or getting done by Barnsley in League One.

It seems selfish to be hoping that we stay up so that I can win us the Champions League on a video game, but my fear is real. The FIFA games go no lower than League Two, so the inevitable will take Tranmere away from FIFA, and with it my chance to have more fictional success at the helm of the Rovers. My club will effectively disappear.

It’s two games from oblivion.

About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.


  1. cowshedend says

    Brilliant Tom!
    Tranmere have always fascinated me, the minnow between 2 scouse bohemoths.
    I’ll be adopting them as well, let’s hope they pull off a Merseyside miracle.
    Not sure that their nickname ‘the superwhites’ is terribly inclusive though.

  2. Great stuff Tom, but I could feel your pain.
    At least my pathetic Bays (SANFL) can’t be demoted.
    For teams at the pointy end of the Conference, this weekend presents an exciting final round. The top side, I think, automatically goes up and the next 4 compete for a Wembley showdown to decide the other club to (if facilities are suitable) join the League – at least, that is how I reckon it works.
    Presently, Barnet are a point and goal difference ahead of Bristol Rovers at the top of the ladder.

  3. Ripper read Tom.

    John Barnes had a brief stint managing (and I use that term loosely) the Rovers last decade. It appears he was as effective as he was during his stint at Parkhead in the late 90’s.

    Regardless of the what happens over the next fortnight remember there’s always hope. Northampton Town rose from the old Division 4 (a Crawford production) to the top flight of English football within five seasons during the early 1960’s. Granted they did slip back to the bottom tier by the start of the 70’s, but for that brief moment in time they rubbed shoulders with the likes of Moore, Best, Charlton, Hurst, Law etc.

    I look forward to your “Miracle” piece in a few weeks time. Good luck.

    Crio – The new system of one in/one out is superior to the old “re election process” of yesteryear when teams had to be voted “in” or “out”. When they finished bottom of the Fourth division in 1978 (?) Southport, another team from Merseyside, lost their League status to a little known outfit called Wigan Athletic.


  4. Well put Tommy, once upon a time (late 70s I think) I supported Footscray, Woodville and Subiaco as they were all on the bottom of respective ladders. The Peckers have folded, the Dogs tries hard but the Lions ( horrible misnomer – the true believers use Subi or Oobie Doobie when they win) have been the pick of the bunch. As an occasional soccer follower I am ready to dump Liverpool for Tranmere right now. No expectations = no disappointments. Cheers Chalk

  5. bulldogboy says

    No Tom No! It is not selfish to hope that Rovers stay up for the sake of your video game. As the occasional player of fifa on ps2, nothing gives greater pleasure than adopting a lower league team and pulverising one of the big clubs (take that Man U).

    Hmmm, you do paint a grim picture of their predicament. As i see it Tom, your only option is get on a plane, brush up on your Scouse slang on the way over and somehow force your way into the changerooms for the final home game and make it happen!

    Oh, a really good read too.

    Chalkdog: As a fellow Red i have to say it’s been a tough season but don’t throw in the towel.

  6. Leonie hall says

    Just gave me a heads up Tom as to what Ed and Frase have been hollering about in the back room all these years ….enlightening at a minimum . Thanks Tom sensational!

  7. Tom Riordan says

    Cheers for the support guys.

    Fef & Chalk – Admirable to jump on the Rovers’, um, bandwagon? Sorry if I’ve sucked you in, we’re pretty bad

    Mic & corio – Non-league seems like a strange world, but hopefully we can become another team to use it as a springboard

    Bulldogboy & Leonie – I hope I’ve now justified every hour I’ve ever played on FIFA!

  8. Corio? Don’t tell me he’s gone over to the dark side?

  9. Barnstoneworth, Barnestoneworth, Barnestoneworth!!!!

  10. Don’t worry about me – I’m more concerned at cowshedend’s alleged support…the Cowshed is the away supporters’ end at Prenton Park!

  11. Been through the whole free fall thing from the old Div 2 to the abyss that is non- league with my Hereford United. There is no coming back from the depths we have sunk. I hope you have better fortunes.

  12. Just looked at a map. Tranmere are on the other side of the Mersey. Their ground holds about 16k supporters and Liiverpool Reserves play there. If the slide continues they will get evicted to give their co tenants better access. They will continue their “pub league” career somewhere. They may even have to take a look at Skinners Res.
    Forgot to commend you on your work Tom. A well thought through piece. And he will forever be known as Corio.

  13. I wonder how a team that specialises in underwhhelming pays its Manager – in tins of baked beans?

    Tranmere – I suppose they have copied their name from an Adelaide suburb.

    For the few interested – the lights went out last night at the Bay oval just as the opponents drew level, and the match was declared a draw.

  14. Tom. It happened. 2 am 26/4/15 and the Superwhites (?) are out of League 2.

  15. Tranmere began the climb back with a 1-0 home win v Woking.

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